Self-care with Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Phillips

Self-care seems to be the latest buzz word, but in actual fact it is something that many of us have been practising or neglecting to do for many years. It is something that all of us need in our busy world to calm our minds, balance the bodies and make us feel more at peace with who we are. Yoga teacher Nadia Narain and her chef sister Katia Narain Philips recently published they first joint book, called ‘Self-care For The Real World’ based not only on their own life experiences, but the feedback of many women that they have met through work, as well on their personal life journey.

I bought the book as soon as I have heard about its publication and read it every night until I turned the last page. Divided into five sections – LOVE, HOPE, PEACE, JOY & LIGHT – each chapter acts as a thoughtful friend, who doesn’t judge your choices, but offers you ideas and tips for doing things a little bit differently in order to improve your life for the better. A mix of recipes, stories, massage tips, inspirational quotes and much more, it is a book not only to read once, it’s more akin to a training manual into which you dive in when the need arrises. My dog-eared copy ‘lives’ by my bedside table now & seeing its cover elicits an inner smile.

As I allow my curiosity to lead the way, when I heard about Katia and Nadia’s first joint workshop, following the book’s publication, at Triyoga Camden ( where Nadia teaches yoga & Katia runs an on-site Nectar cafe – try her tahini choc cookies or chocolate beetroot cake and try not to develop an addiction!), I promptly booked my ticket. Midway into my cold, I was determined to show up and listen and I wasn’t disappointed.

‘You can’t always choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you feel about it.’ Danielle LaPorte

Having done Nadia’s yoga home DVDs and burning her candles for many years & with Katia teaching me the basics of baby massage when my daughter was just a few a couple months old, I arrived with an open mind, as it’s been a while since I have seen them both & was intrigued to observe their sisterly dynamic from the side-lines of a yoga studio.

Nadia, sinewy & somewhat more fragile looking, but with a wonderfully melodic voice that commands attention and Katia, who very much dislikes public talking, but when she speaks, you feel at ease and listen, are quite yin & yang. They look alike, yet are quite different in many ways – Katia dislikes yoga for example and prefers walking, for hours if she is upset or needs to think things over, Nadia can’t imagine life without daily meditation. To watch them in action, gently teasing each other, each in her element and adding her own unique perspective made for a very special workshop for a female-only (no men were brave enough to show up 🙂 audience.

As women of different ages sat down on their mats, (some of us weren’t sure if yoga was on the ‘menu’, hence our arrival not in yoga pants, but in jeans or dresses, while other devotees came in relaxed yoga attire) calm descended. Katia and Nadia talked, Nadia taught us some easy-flowing yoga – in-between we did partner work and that in itself was revelation. Many of us were complete strangers when we came to the workshop, yet we ended up sitting in pairs on the yoga mats, placing our hands on each other and guiding our partner in their breathing patters and correcting the posture. We told each other things that were quite emotional – imagine looking at a stranger and telling her the three things you like about her or what you are most proud of in you life and see how it makes you feel. For me, fairly easy, but also liberating. For some women it was a very emotional experience.

We all talked and shared. We breathed and whispered. We enjoyed the precious time that we had to ourselves and shared with wonderful group of strangers. Below are some of the tips that Katia and Nadia shared. I hope they will intrigue or inspire you to make some changes this year. If not, maybe just read and think about a thing or two that might jump out from the screen & plant a seed in your mind.

  • Nice mindset towards yourself allows you to have a positive mindset towards the world (and we can all do with a nicer world right now!)
  • Be kind to yourself. We would never be unkind to our friends or criticise them in the same way that we criticise ourselves, daily, denting our own confidence in our sense of worth and abilities.
  • Remember that your home is a sanctuary and cleaning & tidiness help to calm things down and create a peaceful oasis when you return to it at the end of the day.
  • Never underestimate the importance and value of face massage. Katia taught us some great techniques to help clear the sinuses and help shift colds by massaging above the brows, around the eyes, along the hairline, behind the ears and then downwards on both sides of our necks. She also intercepted this we gentle fist tapping on the collar bones to help speed up lymphatic drainage.
  • Start your day not only with a warm glass or cup of water with lemon, but by asking yourself ‘What would make my day great?’ rather than listing the pile of daunting tasks you have to complete.
  • Nadia shared a great quote by Dalai Lama along the lines of – If you don’t look after yourself, you aren’t equipped to look after the others. After all, the better YOU feel, the more you have to give. Makes for a good post-it reminder to put on your laptop or bathroom mirror.
  • Saying to yourself or moaning to a friend or partner ‘ I don’t have the time for this’ simply means it’s not a priority for you. Now pause and think about this and see what comes up. That was a biggie for me to contemplate! Katia simply suggested that ‘we have the time, we just have to change how we use it’ and shared the story of how she went from always being late, even when dropping her sons at school, to actually doing things on time and having more time to address things that need to be done on the day.
  • Once a day turn the radio up and dance like there is no tomorrow to your favourite song. Nadia made all of us dance and shake with our eyes closed – if someone was looking into the room, I am sure THAT would have been quite a site for their eyes!
  • Say ‘thank you’ to your partner. We often forget to verbally acknowledge our appreciation for what our loved one does for us, so just take the time to be grateful for their good deeds. It makes such a difference to a state of relationship (I put that tip into practise that evening and it made me feel SO good, I am sure to do it on a more regular basis).
  • If you forget gratitude, you will never have a proper relationship with kindness.

The class ended with a sound bath, but as everyone was settling in, I ended up with a sudden bout of coughing that just wouldn’t end. So I quietly tiptoed out of the room, drank the water, browsed the shop, drank more water, but the cough just wouldn’t go away, until the minute the sound bath was over. While it is a beautiful and deeply spiritual experience for some, sadly on a deep level I am not ‘matched up’ with it, as the previous time I was present during one I got quite restless, which proves that different things resonate with different people in their own way.

Overall it was a wonderfully nurturing experience that not only made those present reflect and learn new things, but it created a quietly happy environment with grounding energy. We cleared the room, queued for some delicious nibbles and kombucha that Katia and her team prepared for us and talked to each other, while having copies of the book signed by Nadia and Katia. I thanked my partner for that day, Bec, who allowed herself some precious time away from her young sons and was almost baffled that they were perfectly content while she was away. I also had a quick chat with the smiling Melissa Hemsley, who came to the workshop, having found a window in her busy schedule for promoting her new book ‘Happy’. She and her sister Jasmine, Hemsley & Hemsley sisters, seem to be forging their unique paths for the time being, following projects close to their individual areas of interest. A big smile confirmed that indeed it is a happy time for her.

I also had a touching conversation with a young woman and mum to a teething 18 months toddler. I shared in class that my special nurturing time comes from reading by myself, as well as listening to my children read or reading to them. A ritual that is serene and blissful and signifies one of the best things about motherhood – nurturing and love. A perfect activity to end the day with, to share in and to find contentment and knowledge. It clearly resonated with her and only expanded the serene happiness I already felt innately inside. My cold was still there, but I left the building content and walking towards the rest of the evening that was to be spent in the company of my family. Just proves that some self-care towards yourself allows you to expand and be content when facing the world.

‘Self-care For The Real World’ by Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Philips, 272 pages, Penguin Random House, £16.99 

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